P U N J A B    S T O R I E S



5 injured as BKU men, commission agents clash
Tribune News Service

Bathinda, September 8
Activists of the BKU (Ugrahan) had a clash with a group of commission agents when the latter reached Maiserkhana village for conducting auction of a farmer’s land today. The commission agents were accompanied by Naib Tehsildar Gurmail Singh.

According to sources, Mahender Singh, a village farmer, had to repay a loan of Rs 1.79 lakh to Mr Kewal Krishan, a Maur-based commission agent, but when he failed to make the payment, the agent, along with his 20 aides, reached the village to auction his 10 kanals of land.

Sources said about 60 activists of the BKU (Ugrahan) under the leadership of the farmer’s elder brother Joginder Singh, who is also the block president of the union, had already converged on the spot. When the agent started the auction proceedings, the BKU activists allegedly stopped them.

Both the parties had an altercation on the matter, following which the BKU workers reportedly beat up those accompanying the agent. Sources said five of them sustained injuries, of which four were admitted in the Maur hospital, while another was rushed to the Bathinda Civil Hospital.

Sources said the commission agent’s supporters created a scene at the Maur Civil Hospital when a doctor on duty denied them treatment stating that they had suffered no injuries. They allegedly manhandled the doctor and later held a protest march in Maur Mandi.

On the other hand, other BKU leaders also gathered at the village where they held a protest over the issue.

When contacted, the district president of the BKU (Ugrahan), Mr Shingara Singh Mann, alleged that the commission agents had first thrashed Joginder Singh, following which the farmers had retaliated to their attack.

He alleged that the state government was creating an atmosphere like the Chathewala episode. He warned that if any of the farmers was booked in the matter, they would intensify the agitation.

Meanwhile, the Kotfatta police was investigating the matter and no case was registered till the filing of this report.


What’s delaying Act on farmers’ debt?
Prabhjot Singh
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, September 8
Protests, dharnas and rallies by various organisations of farmers over their rapidly mounting indebtedness notwithstanding, the Punjab Government appears to be in no hurry to frame a law to check the exploitation of farmers by private money lenders and commission agents.

Yesterday, hundreds of suicide-hit families of the Malwa region poured their hearts out to members of a Delhi-based non-government organisation over the tragedies faced by them not only because of the exorbitant rates of interest on farm loans but also due to the supply of substandard farm inputs.

Now when nine organisations of farmers united by the slogan that “Punjab is not for sale” have threatened to hold a demonstration in Chandigarh on September 13 on the eve of the state Vidhan Sabha session, activity on processing the Punjab relief of indebtedness Act may pick up pace after being tossed around by different departments.

There appears to be some resistance from within the government to the framing of this law which aims to regulate farm loans in the state. According to an estimate, the total debt of Punjab farmers is Rs 25,000 crore because the 24 to 36 per cent interest charged grows by Rs 3,000 crore a year.

In 2005, the Punjab Government, realising the gravity of the situation, decided that the indebtedness Act should be passed.

Senior officers of the Revenue Department, who were assigned to draft the Bill, took almost two years. Once the draft was ready, it was sent to the Group of Ministers for scrutinising it.

Sources revealed that the group, instead of expediting the passage of the Bill, suggested an alternative code of conduct for commission agents and private money lenders mandating that the interest charged from farmers should not go beyond 18 per cent.

The group recommended the issuance of passbooks to farmers besides the constitution of grievance removal panels in market committees and at the district level.

The recommendations of the group raised many an eyebrow as these were viewed as an attempt to scuttle the proposed Act. The farmers’ bodies felt that a section of the group of ministers was acting at the behest of commission agents and moneylenders. The Chief Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh, has reportedly rejected the recommendations.

The Chairman of the Punjab Farmers Commission, Dr G.S. Kalkat, the sources point out, has written to the Chief Minister in support of the proposed law so as to free farmers from the burden of the debt of moneylenders. Besides, the new law will regulate private moneylending in agriculture so as to economically emancipate farmers.

The proposed Bill aims at setting up debt conciliation boards at the subdivisional level where on an application from a farmer, the moneylender along with the relevant loan records could be summoned.

But how long will it take the government to clear it and either promulgate it or get it ratified by the state legislature remains to be seen. In case it is to be taken to the Vidhan Sabha, not much time is left.


SAD to support Bill on farmers
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, September 8
SAD general secretary Sukhbir Singh Badal today said his party would support any Bill presented in the Punjab Assembly to give relief to debt-ridden farmers in the state.

He said his party had earlier tried to present a Bill in the House on certain issues but it was not allowed.

In case the Bill was not fully in the interest of farmers, the party would seek to amend it, he added.

It has been learned that while a section of the Congress ministers is keen on bringing a Bill to give relief to farmers in the coming session of the Punjab Assembly, another is opposing it, though a bit discreetly.

He said they would however oppose the Bill with regard to the setting up of the Chief Vigilance Commission.

Cotton arrival begins on optimistic note
Perneet Singh
Tribune News Service

Bathinda, September 8
The arrival of cotton in markets has begun on an optimistic note, with prices varying between Rs 1,900 and Rs 2,100.

If the weather remains clear for the rest of the month, farmers can look forward to a remunerative season.

Mr Ashok Kapoor, ex-chairman of the North India Cotton Association, said though it had a little moisture, the quality of cotton was better than last year and the estimated production of 25 lakh bales seemed possible.

It might be one or two lakh bales above the figure of 25 lakh bales, which Punjab attained in 1989-90, he added.

Markets in north India were witnessing a daily arrival of 2,000 bales, of which Punjab contributed 1,800 bales.

He said local mills with early requirement were showing a keen interest in making purchases and the CCI had made some purchases at a couple of stations.

He said the demand and supply would gradually increase in the coming days.

According to him, the decline in crop size in flood-hit Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and Gujarat would work to the advantage of Punjab farmers.

He said these states, which accounted for production of 1.5 crore bales, had suffered at least a 3 per cent crop loss in floods, apart from damage to the quality of the crop.

He said the export scenario was looking up, with market experts estimating the maintaining of the tempo of last year.

The market would receive good support from exports in the coming days, he said.

He said mills in north India would give first preference to Punjab in the wake of its quality and proximity.

Regarding any likelihood of decline in prices, Mr Kapoor said though the nature of the market was volatile, he saw no such possibility in the near future.

He said the crop size in Haryana and Rajasthan appeared to be good.

He said the former could cross the figure of 15 lakh bales and the latter was set to touch the figure of 5 lakh bales.


IT raids on Gillco office
Our Correspondent

Kharar, September 8
Officials of the Income Tax Department conducted a raid on the office of a coloniser here today.

According to information, officials of the raiding team enquired about the property rates in the area from the office of the Gillco Valley and later revealed their identity.

The raid started in the morning and was still on at the time of filing the report. Police personnel were also present during the raid. It is learnt that some employees of the coloniser were also questioned. The raiding team reportedly seized some documents.


Ropar, Kharar colonisers’ offices raided
Tribune News Service

Ropar, September 8
Officials of the Income Tax department from Chandigarh and Ropar raided the offices of some colonisers in Ropar and Kharar. The raids began this morning continued till the filling of the report.

The team of the official headed by the Assistant Commissioner Income Tax, Mr Ankus Kapoor, conducted the raids simultaneously in the offices of Gillco Valley, Sun City and Govind Valley in Ropar. Besides, four offices of colonisers in Kharar were also raided

Mr Kapoor said the raids would continue till late night and they were investigating the documents and accounts.


Punjabi boy wins kudos in New Jersey
Sarbjit Dhaliwal
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, September 8
The telephone of 16-year-old Punjabi boy Jayesh Kapoor does not stop ringing. Right from the Governor of New Jersey and the Mayor of New York to other bigwigs, who matter in government structure in the USA, have felicitated him for attaining the ultimate rank of Eagle Scout, which is a rare distinction for the students who enroll as Boy Scouts of America (BSA).

Jayesh, who had his early education in Chandigarh’s Ankur Nursery School and then shifted to West Windsor High School in Plainsboro, New Jersey, in the 8th standard after a brief stint in a school in Kuwait, is expecting a letter of praise from the American President, Mr George Bush. Jayesh will be honoured on October 8 at a function organised by the New Jersey state. He has requested his grandfather, Mr Roshan Lal Kapoor, and grandmother, Mrs Prem Kapoor, who live in Sector 15, to be present on that occasion as it will be a big day for him. Mrs Prem Kapoor told The Tribune that she along with her husband would be flying to the USA on September 21 to share her grandson’s moments of happiness.

To attain the rank of Eagle Scout, Jayesh has earned several merit badges and headed a service project that benefits the church, the community and his school. Over all, he has won 47 merit badges, including the Hindu Religious Dharma award. As a part of his leadership service project, Jayesh led a crew to make, assemble and place six wooden benches along the trails of the Plainsboro Preserve, a wildlife sanctuary and popular jogging destination.

“Scouting has given me a list of accomplishments and, more importantly, a myriad of memories that I know I will look back upon for the rest of my life”, says Jayesh. “I had the good fortune to learn a lot from my grandparents, who instilled the values of self-less service in line with the true karma philosophy in me in my early childhood days”.

Jayesh had earlier earned the Club Scout’s highest award, the Arrow of Light. Last July, he completed a high adventure trip to Philmont Scout Ranch in New Mexico. “It was a trip of a lifetime”, he describes it.

A plus II student in West Windsor School, Jayesh loves debates, concert choir and is an active member of the Future Business Leaders of America (FBLA). His real passion, he says, however, lies in studying foreign affairs and international policy.

His father, Mr Jeewan Jyoti, is a software engineer with New York Times and his mother, Mrs Payal Kapoor, who holds a master’s degree in law, is employed as an insurance company in the USA.


No need to panic, says BBMB Chairman
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, September 8
Bhakra Beas Management Board Chairman Rakesh Nath today said there was no need to panic as there was no flood threat from either the Bhakra or the Pong Dam.

Reservoirs of both dams still have ample capacity to absorb a sudden surge of water, he said while addressing a press conference here.

It is for the second consecutive year that the reservoirs have reached their full capacity and is a good news for farmers of Punjab, Haryana and Rajasthan, as they will reap the benefit in the next crop.

Mr Nath said the optimum water-level of 1,680 feet in the reservoir of the Bhakra Dam was not an indicator of danger. Rather it was an indicator of safe water level.

The reservoir of the dam has a buffer of five feet and water can be filled up to 1,685 feet. The reservoir can take in around 2 lakh cusecs in the buffer zone. The same can be released slowly to prevent a sudden surge of water.

Mr Nath said it was still 10 feet short of the danger level for flood, as the brim of the dam was at 1,690 feet.

He said: “We are alert to any rise in the water level. The observation posts downstream of Rampur Bushahr in Himachal Pradesh are working round the clock and the latest flow of water is being conveyed through a wireless system.”

The technical committee of the BBMB, which has representatives of all partner states, met here today and decided to operate the reservoirs in a normal fashion.

The filing of the reservoirs has been as per the laid down schedule, Mr Nath added.

The reservoir level of Bhakra this morning was 1,677.15 ft, against 1,673 ft on the same day last year.

The inflow since May 21 has been at an average of 41,000 cusecs per day. This conforms to a “dependable” pattern of water inflow.

Reservoir level of the Pong Dam on the Beas this morning was 1,377.69 ft, which is almost the same as last year’s.

The inflow there this season has been on an average of 22,149 cusecs. The reservoir can be filled up to 1,390 feet.

So far there is no situation to release extra water other than the need of partner states.

Meanwhile, Mr Nath said it was expected that the first unit of the Dehar power house would be put on a test run on September 10. It would start generating power on September 12.

The other five units are expected to start generation in a staggered fashion and there will be a gap of four days between the revival of each unit.

It may be recollected that water had entered the Dehar power house due to faulty valve on August 27. The closure meant a loss of 14 million units every day.

The chairman also downplayed the letter of threat issued to Chief Engineer of the Bhakra Dam asking him to open the gates of the dam.

He said the letter written in English did not mention the name of the organisation and said: “Why would anybody make such a demand to open the gates of the dam at this stage.”

The decision to release water is not made by the Chief Engineer but by the partner states, he added.


Khalra’s widow moves HC over ex-DGP Gill
Maneesh Chhibber
Our High Court Correspondent

Chandigarh, September 8
Mrs Paramjit Kaur Khalra, widow of human rights activist Jaswant Singh Khalra, who was allegedly kidnapped and later liquidated by Punjab Police personnel in 1995, is filing a petition in the Punjab and Haryana High Court seeking completion of the CBI investigation into the case via-a-vis the then DGP, Punjab, Mr K.P.S. Gill.

In her petition, Mrs Khalra is praying that despite evidence, including statement of prosecution witness Kuldeep Singh, who reportedly told the CBI about the role allegedly played by Mr Gill in the disappearance of Mr Khalra, the CBI has adopted a policy of go-slow insofar as Mr Gill was concerned.

She has pointed out despite the damning testimony of Kuldeep Singh, the CBI chose not to make him a prosecution witness.

It was only after Mrs Khalra filed an application in court in August 1988, requesting that Kuldeep Singh be made a witness, that the court ordered so and he was made a witness and his statement was recorded.

As per her, Kuldeep Singh's testimony, including the sequence of events, clearly pointed to the role of Mr Gill in the case.

According to her petition, during trial of some of the accused, it became evident Mr Gill was one of the main conspirators in the abduction, illegal detention, torture and alleged murder of her husband.

She has stated that the murder would not have been possible without the direct involvement and that there was a prima facie case for further investigation into his role.

It may be recalled that sometime back, a Patiala court awarded life sentence to a Punjab Police DSP and a serving Inspector for their role in the crime. Four other cops were awarded seven years' rigorous imprisonment.

Immediately after the judgment, Mrs Paramjit Kaur and her lawyer, Mr Rajvinder Singh Bains, had termed the punishment ‘‘too little, too late’’.

They had also demanded that the CBI register a case against the former DGP.

Tomorrow, Mr Khalra's widow and human rights activist Ram Narayan Kumar are scheduled to address a press conference with regard to Mr Gill’s role in the entire case.


‘Police allowed brothel in house for a consideration’
Dharmendra Joshi
Tribune News Service

Kapurthala, September 8
The police was embarrassed when an alleged kingpin of a brothel said at a press-conference here today that she had been giving bribe to several policemen to run a brothel in her house for several years.

Kapurthala SP (Detective) Bachan Singh Randhawa had called the press conference to highlight his achievement of busting a brothel but kingpin Ms Balwinder Kaur alias Pinki’s revelations were embarrassment for the police.

When Pinki was brought before reporters, she said that she had been giving Rs 5000 each to CIA in charge and city police station in charge and Rs 4000 to PCR in charge of the area per month for running the brothel for several years.

Pinki added she had made up her mind to leave this ‘unethical’ work once for all when the police had caught her some time back. She also stuck to her decision after her release but these policemen kept on making rounds of her house for the ‘monthly bribe’ that forced her to restart the work.

Later when contacted, SSP Rajiv Ahir told The Tribune that he had sought a report from the SP (D) about the entire episode. Stern action would be taken against the ‘erring’ policemen after verification of the allegations levelled by Pinki, he added.

Pinki told reporters that she had to start the brothel to make ends meet as her husband was jobless.

SP(D) Bachan Singh Randhawa said the brothel had been smashed after a tip-off. He said a policeman posed as a customer and the deal was struck for Rs 2000.

When Pinki’s son came with the call girl from Chuharwali village in Jalandhar district to supply it to the fake customer at room number 104 of Shagun hotel here yesterday night, the police raided the hotel and nabbed the call girl, he added.

Following it, a raid was conducted at Pinki’s house near Mansoorwal chungi on the Jalandhar-Kapurthala road at 11.30 pm yesterday, he said, adding nine call girls and six customers were nabbed from there. The raid was kept a secret and none of the policemen who allegedly had taken bribe from Pinki knew about it.

The SP (D) said that a portion of Pinki’s house was being used as a brothel and if some a customer wanted to take the call girl with him in a hotel, it was also arranged.

Mr Randhawa said the call girls and their customers belonged to different areas of Kapurthala, Jalandhar, Pathankot and Adampur. They had been booked under Sections 3, 4, 5 and 6 of the Immoral Traffic Act. Pinki has been arrested third time for running a brothel and she had been in this business for more than past five years, he added.


Badal wants CM’s passport impounded
Amarjit Thind
Tribune News Service

Chhapar, September 8
The Shiromani Akali Dal chief and former Chief Minister, Mr Parkash Singh Badal, said today Capt Amarinder Singh and his coterie were packing their bags and would leave the country once the code of conduct came to power in Punjab.

He was addressing a gathering at a political conference organised at Chhapar Mela here.

Coming down heavily on the Chief Minister, he said the burden of the Captain’s misrule was haunting him, in addition to the fear of being brought to book by the Akalis. This could be gauged from the fact that Capt Amarinder Singh was scouting around the globe for a safe haven and had no time to face the people at historic events like the one today, he pointed out.

Keeping up the offensive, he said the first task of the Akalis, once they come to power, would be to return the ill-gotten wealth amassed by the Chief Minister back to the people. He urged the President to ask the government to impound the passport of the Chief Minister and his kitchen cabinet so that the secret of his frequent visits abroad could be unravelled.

Ridiculing the mega projects trumpeted by the Congress, he said there was nothing to show on the ground. The only mega project of the Chief Minister seemed to be filling his Moti Mahal Palace with money. “We will never allow him to run away,” he reiterated amid slogans of “Bole so nihal” by the gathering.

Commenting on the survey by a magazine ranking Punjab as number one state, Mr Badal said the ranking was done on three core issues — agriculture, roads and power — all of which had been nurtured by his government. The Congress was basking in what should have been their hour of glory, he pointed out.

He promised that Punjab would witness a new era of development once the Akalis were voted to power since the Congress had miserably failed on all fronts. All the mega projects in the state would be reviewed and, if need be, cancelled, he added.

On the issue of singing Vande Mataram, he said it was a ploy of the Congress to create a rift among the minorities and the people should not read too much into it.

Speaking on the occasion, SAD secretary general S.S. Dhindsa said they had had two meetings on the seat sharing and 15 seats, where the BJP had a wining edge, had been earmarked. He said the candidature of Mr Navjot Singh Sidhu, MP, from Patiala had evoked a strong consensus among the alliance partners, but a final decision would be taken shortly.


Sukhbir lashes out at CM
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh September 8
Citing a survey published in a Delhi-based magazine, which ranks Punjab Chief Minister a dismal 13 among other Chief Ministers in one of its issues, SAD general secretary Sukhbir Singh Badal today lashed out at the Chief Minister and accused him of misleading people by spending huge funds from the state exchequer.

He said he would send the copies of the report to Congress MLAs and ministers to expose the lies of the Chief Minister with regard to the outcome of the survey.

Addressing a press conference here today, Mr Badal said he would send copies to all concerned to prove that “Capt Amarinder Singh and his media managers were misleading people on the survey report by spending huge funds from the state exchequer”. He handed out copies of the survey report to mediapersons.

He said the survey had showed Capt Amarinder Singh and the performance of his government in a very poor light.

Capt Amarinder Singh should make public his rating among the Chief Ministers of the states, he said. 


Death anniversary function turns into political rally
Sushil Goyal
Tribune News Service

Kanjhla (Sangrur), September 8
The function organised to mark the second death anniversary of Mukhtiar Kaur, wife of Sherpur MLA Gobind Singh Kanjhla, virtually turned into a political rally here today.

Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) president Parkash Singh Badal called upon the people to form a SAD-BJP government in the Assembly elections.

In his address after paying tributes to Mukhtiar Kaur, Mr Badal said SAD workers faced a do-or-die situation.

He promised that the SAD government, after coming to power, would enhance old-age and social security pensions to Rs 400 per month.

He said the SAD government would set up Sanawar pattern schools in each block for wards of farmers and Dalits.

Mr Badal said names of Congress ministers should be entered in the Guinness Book of Records for corruption.

He lashed out at the Capt Amarinder Singh government, saying it had ruined agriculture and neglected the 38 per cent population of Dalits in the state.

Mr Badal termed the Congress anti-worker as it had not given five-marla plots to Dalits while it had given hundreds of acres to Reliance industries.

Regarding the installation of three granthis at the Golden Temple in Amritsar, he said there was no confrontation between the Akal Takht jathedar and the SGPC chief.

He declined to say anything about fielding Mr Navjot Singh Sidhu as the BJP candidate from Patiala.

He said the SAD and the BJP would hold discussions over the issue.


Third Front to reverse past decisions
Mahesh Sharma

Mandi Ahmedgarh, September 8
The Third Front, after coming to power in Punjab, would reverse all anti-people decisions taken by the successive governments led by the Congress and the SAD after Independence, Mr Balwant Singh Ramoowalia, president of the Lok Bhalai Party, said at a joint political conference at Chhapar Mela along with leaders of the CPI and the CPM this noon.

Accusing the Congress and the SAD of trying to appease the voters with slogan before every election and then ignoring the interests of the public, he urged the people not to fall prey to allurements and promises being made by leaders of these parties. Their front would look after the interests of masses instead of drawing benefits for families and friends, he reiterated.

“The Congress has been trying to win the public sympathy in the name of alleged bogus development projects, while the SAD and the BJP have been communalising religious sentiments of Sikhs and Hindus, respectively,” said Mr Ramoowalia.

Terming the Vande Mataram issue as unwarranted, Mr Ramoowalia said it was undisputedly a National Song but no one should be forced to recite it.

The others who addressed the gathering included Prof Balwant Singh, state secretary, CPM, Dr Joginder Dyal, member, National Council, CPI, Mr Jagroop Singh, state secretary, CPI, Mr Kartar Singh Buani, member, National Council, CPI, and Mr Avtar Singh Mullanpuri, acting president, LBP.

Admitting for the first time that innocent people were killed by extremists in Punjab in the past, Mr Simranjit Singh Mann, President, SAD (A), branded certain national heroes as terrorists since they too had killed innocent persons.

Terming the behavior of the Congress and the BJP as cultural terrorism, he alleged that these parties were forcing members of minorities, the Muslims and the Sikhs, to toe their line or face the consequences.

Talking to The Tribune after addressing a party conference at Chhapar Mela, Mr Mann urged the Akal Takht Jathedar to summon Mr Parkash Singh Badal, President, SAD, and Mr Avtar Singh Makkar president, SGPC, for alleged religious sacrilege as they had endorsed that the song was the National Song and there was nothing wrong for the Sikhs in reciting it.


Son of Badal’s close aide joins Cong
Tribune News Service

Gurdaspur, September 8
In a major blow to SAD, Mr Tinku Walia, son of the late Mr Jagdish Singh Walia, a close aide of Mr Prakash Singh Badal the SAD president, joined the Congress today. He joined the Congress in the presence of the Mr Fateh Bajwa, brother of Mr Pratap Singh Bajwa, the PWD and Education Minister, and Mr Ravinder Sharma, a youth Congress leader.

Mr Jagdish Singh Walia was chairman of Gurdaspur Central Cooperative Bank and close aide of Mr Badal. He died about two months ago. The sources close to Mr Jagdish Singh Walia’s family said that Mr Badal had snapped business links with the family.


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